Lofa Expresses Mixed Reactions to Weah’s Reform Proposal on Tenures of Elected Officials

VOINJAMA, Lofa – Citizens in Lofa have expressed mixed views on the recent proposal made to the legislature by President George Weah on tenures reduction for the president and lawmakers.

The 1986 constitution prescribes for presidents to be elected for a four-year tenure and two terms limit each, while senators and representatives are elected for nine- and six-year tenures, respectively, with no term limit.

During a national constitution review in 2015, Liberians from the 15 subdivisions and the diaspora voted on 25 issues to be forwarded for amendments to the constitution, including to reduce the term durations for president and lawmakers.

The delegates voted to reduce the presidential terms from six to four years, senatorial terms from nine to six years, and representatives’ terms from six to four years – with two-term limits for each.

The recommendations were submitted to former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who forwarded them to the legislature.

However, Weah has proposed another amendment, in contrast to the citizens’ recommendations. He suggested a reduction in the tenure of the president and members of the House of Representatives from six to five years, and an accompanying reduction in the tenure of senators from nine to seven years.

Some citizens in Voinjama who spoke to The Bush Chicken agreed with others in Bomi that the president’s proposal contradicts the views of majority Liberians expressed during the constitution reform consultations.

Boakai Kamara, the coordinator for the Federation of Liberia Youth in Lofa, and Kebeh Pewee, a businesswoman in Voinjama, said they want the president to listen to the views of the majority of citizens expressed during the national consultation for the constitution review process.

The coordinator for people living with disabilities in Lofa, Yama Ballah, also said an attempt to approve the president’s proposal rather than what was recommended at the constitution review conference would be an imposition of the president’s will against the majority of Liberians.

“Most of the citizens – traditional women, youths, and everybody was represented. So, what was said, let him go by that and work towards it,” Ballah said.

But Paul Korvah, who works with the Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy in Lofa as a mineral inspector, welcomed the president recommendation.

Korvah said Weah’s proposal to elect the president and representatives for five years and seven years for senators would be a win-win situation for citizens and their officials.

Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy employee, Paul Korvah; photo: Gbatemah Senah

He said although reducing tenures of officials can help make them more effective, having a leader serve for too short a period would make them achieve less. He said the situation would also create a system where too many funds would be spent on just holding elections for public officials.

“This will address both the challenge with having one set of leaders serving for too long and the challenge with having too many elections in a short period,” he said.

Mohammed Sheriff, an activist and classroom teacher in Voinjama, also told The Bush Chicken that the current economy does not support a reduction in the tenure of elected officials, as it would lead to a greater frequency of holding elections, which might be more expensive to do.

“With our economic situation right now, I will still maintain that the tenures should remain the same because by reducing them, you are creating a serious economic problem for us,” he said.

“We are not actually sophisticated when it comes to financial prudence. So, we cannot do that, and the common people suffer.”

He said while the reduction in the tenures of officials would contribute to efficiency in government, the plan must be suspended until at a time when the country’s economy is strong enough to hold many elections in short periods.

This article was produced with funding from Internews for the Citizens in Liberia Engaged to Advance Electoral Reform (CLEAR) project. Gbatemah Senah contributed to this article. Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah

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